Sunday, 13 May 2012

Album Review - Plum - The Seed

'The Seed' is a concept album of sorts, gifted to the world by singer songwriter Shona Maguire.  Released under the guise of Plum, a childhood nickname, it's the concept of taking an idea and allowing it to grow naturally and flourish.  The album was released on 7th April, and much like the concept, I've been sitting on the beginnings of this review since then.  I hope Plum is sympathetic to my plight as it took a few weeks to formulate my thoughts about the album.

Album opener 'The Seed' possess a stormer of a bass line, one which slightly betrays the direction the album will take over the course of it's twelve tracks.  "You planted a seed in my mind" Maguire proclaims, the idea of which "made my heart go blind".  It's a verse which makes me think of the film Inception.  The track quickly turns into an electro pop song which a good number of chart stars at the moment would be proud of.  It's a very strong opening to the album.

'The Truth & The Knife' is a much slower track, pulling back on the heavy electro vibe in 'The Seed'.  Combining xylophones and bongos there's a eerie tribal feel to this track.  Maguire's voice hangs in the air, and swirls round your head.  'The Truth & The Knife' is my favourite track on the album.

Things continue on much the same vein with 'Dirt' and 'Dust' which follow.  'Dirt' has a little more sparkle to it, whilst 'Dust' revisits the tribal element but in a more simplistic and minimalist vein.  These two tracks, along with next song 'Smile' do seem to merge into each other a little.  With the minimalist electronica production behind Maguire's voice, it is hard to distinguish the tracks at times.

I'm reminded of trip-hop forgotten boys Sneaker Pimps by the time we reach 'Chrysalis'.  There's an incredible hypnotic loop which dominates this track, and it's clear by now that this album is not at all what I had expected.  'Butterflies' is softer and mellower, although my one complaint would be that I want to hear the vocals soar towards the end.

Maguire has a beautiful voice, and when the bells and whistles are removed it really does ensnare you. 'Butterflies' shows that as does 'Quietly' a stripped back track, as the name suggests.  It's just skin and bones, vocals and acoustic guitar.  A lovely little double to shore up the middle of the album.

It's at this point I have to reveal the source of my quandary in listening to this album.  It seems to me that the 'seed' from which this album grew, was to make an electro-pop album, or at least to experiment in that genre.  Yet I'm unsure how much Plum really wants to be like Florence & The Machine, Marina & The Diamonds, Nikki & The Dove, et al.  There's restraint, and a lot of the songs are far too dark to ever really be in the same ball park as those previously mentioned albums.  Plum's strenghts to me are when things are stripped back, and her voice is brought to the fore.  That isn't to say that 'The Seed' is a bad album, it's just things could be far more interesting if the production was scaled back a little.

Overall, 'The Seed' is an intriguing album.  I kept coming back to it, and that really is the mark of a good album.  It's not perfect, and there's things I'd change, but then what do I know.  Check it out yourself and make up your own mind.

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